(FORTUNE Magazine) – Meet Kwek Leng Beng, the man who pays Donald Trump's allowance. Last July, Kwek, along with Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed, bought the Plaza hotel in New York City--"the ultimate trophy of the world," Trump once trumpeted--from a Citibank-led syndicate, which has effectively owned the joint since the Donald got caught in the big real estate crash.

Trump wanted a bigger piece of the action but was instead handed a seat on a "management" committee, according to Kwek: "He wants to manage the hotel; he wants to joint-venture--he wants everything. We pay him an entertainment allowance. I think he's happy, although not too happy. If he is out of the way, the new management has more of a free hand." Kwek is keeping Trump around as a super salesman. (Smart idea. Trump is the guy who persuaded banks to give him billions in nonrecourse loans.) He's been hired to build and unload some pricey condos being created on the Plaza's top floors, which will help finance the deal.

Chances are, you've heard of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, a major Citicorp investor who owns a chunk of Saks Fifth Avenue with Investcorp. But just who the heck is Kwek?

Like Trump, Kwek is out to prove himself a world-class deal-maker. He is, in fact, the head of what is probably the richest family in Singapore, with assets of more than $4 billion, most in the form of Hong Leong Group, a collection of family-controlled, public and private companies. Kwek, 54, is filling the shoes of his late father, Kwek Hong Png, who left South China a penniless boy and eventually became Singapore's leading developer. He died last year at age 82. Says a Singapore banker: "Leng Beng was kept on a tight leash." It's gone now. Adds Kwek: "If I do not seize the opportunity to create a global enterprise, then I have not learned and graduated from my father."

Kwek delights in playing the mysterious stranger who swoops into town laden with megabucks to make lightning deals. He is the antithesis of Japanese investors of the Eighties, who overpaid massively for hotels. Says he: "When the market hits rock bottom and nobody dares to buy, I come in." Beginning in 1992 he acquired the Gloucester and two other top hotels in London that owners were eager to unload.

Kwek reached Manhattan two years ago, and unlike many tourists, he did not find it too expensive. He bought the Hotel Millenium, near the World Trade Center, out of bankruptcy for $75 million--it cost developer Peter Kalikow more than $150 million to build. He then cherry-picked the midtown Hotel Macklowe, (now the Millennium Broadway). He now owns more than 50 inns--ranking him among the world's top ten hoteliers.

But his crowning achievement is the Plaza, which he and the prince acquired in a complex transaction that values the hotel at $325 million--or about $75 million less than Trump paid in 1988. Kwek and Prince Alwaleed put up a little more than $100 million in cash--not exactly a stretch for these two--for 80% of the Plaza.

Kwek is avidly shopping for more trophy hotels in the West. There are some beauties available, but he vows never to fall in love. Says he: "We're not short-term investors, but we have to be practical. If somebody in two years offers $700 million to $800 million for the Plaza, we say goodbye. Why be sentimental about it? It's an asset." You might be able to buy a piece. Next year Kwek plans to float the U.S. and European hotels on the London exchange.

--Louis Kraar